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Rimfire Part 1; .22 Short, Long & Extra Long Pistols & Rifles, BB Cap Guns & More

Most of us who shoot cut our targeting teeth on a .22 Long Rifle long gun of some type. This cartridge has probably been the top selling cartridge of all time. The .22 Short has an extended history being introduced by Smith & Wesson with black powder as the propellant with their No. 1 revolver in 1857. This was a personal protection, close quarter defense gun. It was manufactured from 1857 up to 1882. Its successor was the S&W No. 1 ½ in .32 Rimfire. The 22 is still with us, not so the 32. The .22 caliber rimfire uses a healed bullet, and thus the bullet is the same diameter as the case. The .22 progressed from the .22 short to the .22 Long and Long Rifle. Both the long and long rifle cartridges share the same case. Cheap, accurate and capable taking small game the .22 Long Rifle will sustain its popularity for some time to come.

.22 BB Cap Gun

The history and variety of the rimfire is intriguing. The .22 BB Cap is a short rimfire with only the primer compound providing propulsion. A French contribution designed for a quiet low performance round for small home pest control and indoor ranges. Surprising enough many people enjoyed shooting indoors with low powered ammunition in the 19th century. Some consider this a useless cartridge, but it serves a purpose. Low sales make its future dark, but that may perhaps be because of few of us even know it exits. However, it pushes an 18-grain out at over 700 fps. Next is the BB Cap’s bigger brother the CB Cap. Velocity about the same but the bullet is now a 29-grain instead of the 18-grain bullet.

.22 Short Pistol

The S&W No. 1 Revolver was popular on both sides of the Civil War. Used as a last-ditch defensive weapon the gun and cartridges were in high demand. So much so that Smith & Wesson had to expand their manufacturing facilities. Thus, there were many black-powder loaded .22 shorts manufactured over these years. The .22 Short fired a 29-grain bullet at 1050 fps, just short of supersonic or a 27 grain at over 1100 fps. These are modern smokeless powder loadings the black powder loads would fall short of these figures. Match grade loads soldier on in international competition matches with special Olympic models for international shooting competition. Only .22 shorts are used in Olympic competition.

.22 Long Rifle

The .22 long came on the scene in about 1871. It pushed up the performance of the 29-grain performance to as high as 1200 fps with modern propellants. Now the case length is shared with the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. The Long Rifle just loads a heavier bullet from 31 grains up to 40-grains. The .22 Long Rifle is available with the lighter bullets that push velocities up around 1700 fps and tops out over 1200 fps with the 40 grainers. Not modern by any means, the .22 Long Rifle was introduced in 1887.

.22 Extra Long

There other attempts at more performance with the .22 Extra Long in 1977. Still in production, but not as it would seem, there be a story on this cartridge. The .22 Stinger ammo was load to case overall length of the .22 Long Rifle, but the case was slightly longer. To satisfy the European market who refused to consider the Stinger cartridge as a Long Rifle, the manufacturers added the appellation of ‘Extra Long’, so the .22 Extra Long ammo is just Stinger ammo, a politically acceptable moniker for the Europeans. Incidentally the Stinger is a high velocity loading. Our next installment will cover the Big 22’s and the mighty 17’s, the rimfire story is not over.